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How can the average freelancer, designer, consultant or service provider create an effective selling or sales system for their online business? Although I’m primarily writing this for those of us selling online services, the principles are universal and can be applied to anything.
What do freelancers, designers, consultants, programmers, etc. all have in common? I believe there’s a solid core of creativity that runs through everything they do. Simply put, they are part of a group that’s become known as the “creative class” in the entrepreneurial world.
From what I can tell, the term “creative class” was coined by Professor Richard Florida of the University of Toronto. According to Wikipedia – “The creative class is a posited socioeconomic class identified by American economist and social scientist Richard Florida. According to Florida, the creative class are a key driving force for economic development of post-industrial cities in the United States.”
While this group may have taken root in the United States initially, I believe the same can now be said today for rest of the post-industrialized world as well. The online economy, as well as local economies, are filled with creatives in every niche and market you can think of.
In the context of this article, however, I’m going to stick with the “work-from-home” people (freelancers, designers, consultants, developers, etc.).
The Work You Do
Some of my friends are coders. Others are designers. Although the differences are obvious to most, both fit into the creative classification perfectly. It takes creativity to build anything, regardless of the medium. On a personal level, which is what really matters to us at the end of the day, seeing a finished product (your finished product) brings the kind of satisfaction with it that you’d be hard-pressed to find anywhere else.
The satisfaction that comes with doing something you enjoy (creating) was inspiring enough that it led us to build a business around it. So, on one hand, we have the work. We have a process. We make, build or design things and it has a way of bringing the very best in us to the surface.
Then, the curtain gets pulled back and the blinding light of reality come shining in.
This is when we finally discover – everything must be sold… and short of selling water in the desert, nothing sells itself.
For most creatives, this is where the disconnect happens. The very first time the reality of this sunk in for me, part of me just wanted to throw in the towel and quit. That’s exactly how I felt. It was one of those moments in time when you’re sitting there, head hung low, asking the million-dollar question, “Why does everything have to be so hard!”
So, there you sit. You start doing the math.
It’s a simple equation. You’re more of a creative type of person. You like making, designing and/or building things. You don’t love or even like, truth be told, selling things.
I started out as a terrible salesman because I’d been led to believe that selling requires you to become someone you’re not. That was my mindset.
Unless you’re an actor, and a decent one at that, this is a tough connection make from that vantage point (stepping out of your natural personality into another). I’m talking about selling in the most practical sense.
Although this should go without saying, it’s not too difficult to measure the effectiveness of a salesperson. A good salesperson makes a lot of sales!
So, let’s forget about where you might be today on the sales spectrum. Instead, let’s just focus on one thing – becoming more effective at it with each passing month.
I Started with a Script and a Bunch of Phone Numbers
A few weeks ago, I talked (in one of my podcast episodes) about my experiences years ago as a telemarketer. I was given a sales script and thrown into the fire. If you didn’t sell, you got fired.
The script kept you on point. It contained all the elements of the sales process from start to finish. The person who trained me said, “Remember, the person on the other end of the line can’t see you… so make sure you have a smile in your voice when you go through it.”
Honestly, I thought the script was kind of “dated.” Some of the wording sounded old-fashioned to me. Sort of, “out of touch.” But – you read the script or you got fired, so yeah, I read the script.
I put a smile in my voice, I read the script and slowly but surely, the sales started coming in. I was surprised at first, to be perfectly honest about it.
When people started buying, my confidence grew.
From Cold Lists to “Warm Lists”
Remember, we’re talking about sales and in the example above, I was cold-calling over the phone. The initial contact was cold. After a while, I was given a list of former customers. They called that list the “warm list.”
The pitch as the same. The product was the same. The difference was, the person on the other end of the line was potentially a repeat buyer.
I’m sharing all of this with you because depending on your personality, your level of experience, and your service, the missing link to increased sales can be something as simple as a script. The script will keep you on point. It will keep you from talking too much or not saying enough.
Does that make sense? Did you ever talk too much? Sure, we all have. That’s when you say something stupid or unnecessary that breaks the mood of the conversation. Men do that with women all the time. Something comes out wrong.
This happens is sales, too. Someone is ready to buy, and then something is said that breaks the flow. The person hesitates and then decides they need more time to think it through.
Creating or Designing Your Sales Script
How do you get a creative person to stay in their lane and follow a script? Where does the script come from? Let me answer the second question first. A great source would be a sales professional who understands your service inside out.
Where do you find that kind of person? Well, you can hire a copywriter who specializes in writing copy for your type of service. You hire them just like you do any other type of freelancers.
Get references. Ask around. Join groups on Facebook and ask there.
Check on LinkedIn.
You can also talk to successful salespeople who have experience selling the same or similar types of services. They’re not copywriters, but they understand the process well from start to finish.
Another way to do it is to become the customer and learn from others trying to sell you their services.
I’ve contacted some big companies myself, enquiring about certain products and services that I was interested in selling through my own company. From there, you just let the salespeople do their thing.
They, too, follow a script and a process. Sometimes when I’d stop a salesperson with a question or two, they’ll drop the script completely and give me the details I’m looking for.
The last person I spoke with said, “Let me continue with the presentation because I may be able to answer some more questions that will come to mind later on.” I appreciated their transparency.
You don’t mind when people talk about something you’re interested in. Isn’t that true?
That’s the real secret. We don’t buy what we’re not interested in. The objective here isn’t to magically make someone who’s not interested in your service – suddenly want to buy it.
There must be some level of interest before anything happens.
So, be honest with yourself. If you don’t know what you’re doing and you’re not getting consistent results, consider the script as being your first step. Next comes the process the script fits into. Think of the process as a series of steps. What comes first, what comes second, etc.
Back to the script
What if you can’t find anyone, for whatever reason, to create this script for you or at the very least help you put one together?
Then you’ll have to do your research. Think about how you research designs, colors, layouts, and other approaches to get inspiration for upcoming projects.
There are plenty of sales scripts out there you can review to help you get started.
For example, I have an account at https://www.mailshake.com. I don’t use the service as much as I could, but it comes with a good selection of templates that can be used for cold calling, follow-ups, etc.
You can also access the templates at https://www.hubspot.com/ with their free account. They have a fairly big selection also.
Remember, if you’re just getting started, these templates will be used in YOUR sales process. “Yours” meaning – it can be as simple as you want it to be using tools you’re already familiar with.
The problem with all of the new platforms and software options out there (PaaS – Platforms as a service & SaaS – Software as a service) is that they all require time to learn and become comfortable with. It becomes yet another thing on the to-do list.
You may not have the time, energy, or even the inclination to cross that bridge right now? So instead, you can use the tools you already have along with a script to build a better sales process.
Your Script is a Part of the Process
Tossing around words like “scripts” and “processes” may not give you that warm, fuzzy, home for the holidays type of feeling. I’m with you on that one. Maybe you’re wrestling with these concepts because they have more of a corporate-type of feel to them?
I can almost hear someone out there saying, “Hey, all this sounds good, but I’m just a one-person business with a simple computer setup in the corner of a room.”
Yes, and so are (at least) hundreds of thousands of others around the world.
Quick story. Back in the late 70s, only bigger businesses used computers. Everyone else did thing “the old-fashioned way.” By hand! Many designers, even through the decade of the 80s, were resistant to change. Once they took the leap, however, they never looked back.
Sales processes and systems aren’t just for big businesses with huge budgets. They’re for anyone who wants to be more effective, efficient, and productive. They’re for anyone, even creatives, who wants to stop “winging it” when it comes to increasing sales.
A friend of mine was the head chef on an international cruise ship. He trained an entire staff of people and taught them how to prepare and serve gourmet food night after night. The kitchen had a series of processes that kept everything running smoothly.
Each station in the kitchen performed a specific task. It worked like a well-oiled machine! Eventually, he left to open his own restaurant. He replicated the systems he used on the ship.
That’s a quick example of scripts and processes combined to create a system. No, his scripts weren’t words designed to sell. They were recipes, pre-measured ingredients, etc. designed to create the desired end result.
This Approach Can Work Wonders for You
I really believe this can be a gamechanger for you. Imagine having a sales process in place designed to connect your business to new clients, and provide highly valued services to the marketplace?
What would that look like? Can you see something like that working for you? How much stress and uncertainty could it remove from your life? If you had a tail it would be wagging right now.
You can see why buying a franchise is so attractive to some entrepreneurs. All the systems are already in place. These concepts shouldn’t be completely foreign to you. Even if you haven’t gone as far as documenting the processes you already use (maybe so you can train others to replace you?) you probably follow certain patterns or processes.
Creative people have processes. When these processes or steps are linked together, we usually start referring to them as systems. Even if you call it something else, it’s just semantics at that point. Systems, processes, steps – they are all designed to lead to the desired end result.
The same approach can be applied to sales as you start creating a sales and follow-up system for your business.
A Recent Conversation with a Top, National Salesman
A friend of mine is a top salesman for a large energy company. Every week he flies out to meet with clients in different states. Although you don’t hear much about them, the top salespeople are like top athletes in sports. Companies try to lure them away with money and incentives.
I’ve never met a great salesperson in any industry who followed a complicated process or system. My friend is the same way. He travels because he likes to meet face to face with his client’s and prospects.
Last week he told me, “The younger generation (he’s about 55) use technology to avoid face to face meetings. I do the opposite. I visit with everyone and I do it regularly. That way, I build a relationship that’s at a deeper level than the ones my competitors are building.
By the way, he sells his product/service to entire towns and cities. Imagine the competition he has! When he closes a sale, it’s a multi-million-dollar deal.
Is it Time to Find a Better Sales System for Your Business?
Let’s bring it back to you. Without question, there are people out there who will happily CHOOSE YOU to do business with once they discover you. You just haven’t met them yet.
Yes, they’re out there, but without some kind of system in place to help move the two of you closer together, that connection may never happen.
One of the easiest ways to get started is by sketching out a simple outline showing how you’re currently selling your service. You can go totally low-tech if you want and use scrap paper if it helps you get started faster.
Write it out. What do you do first? What comes next? How about the third thing?
When you’re finished, ask yourself, “What can I add or remove that could make this more effective or better?
Draw, write or add it in there.
Then, use it in a real-world setting. What was the result? Was it easier, better or more effective? Adjust the “map” accordingly.
During the early days of my business, I tried doing this using the popular marketing and sales plan software programs of the day. As nice as it was to see what a complete, high-end, marketing and sales plan would look like, it created too many moving pieces for me to deal with.
I struggled to complete the initial questionnaire part of the software!
I just didn’t have the mental bandwidth to work with all the moving pieces AND do the actual work of the business. Maybe you can relate?
This is why I’m suggesting a very simple, very basic system to get started with. Otherwise, you may never get started.
Sooner or later, if you stay with it and don’t give up, you’ll build a solid system with solid processes for your business.
Feel free to share your thoughts on this topic in the section below.
I hope you’ve found this information useful!